I am always on the lookout for drought tolerant plants that will thrive with little effort through my region’s paradoxical climate (hot summers and cold winters). Cold hardy sedums were a trusted friend through the years when I gardened in a trifecta of challenging spaces: a hot rooftop garden, a community garden plot, and a pocket of poor soil on a very busy urban street. Back then I needed plants that could suffer extreme heat and drought, neglect, poor soil, and sometimes even trampling by passersby both human and non-human. These days my primary garden is a sunny yard with mostly sandy soil and while the challenges are not as great, sedums are still a much-loved go-to plant. In fact, I’d say my love for these rough and tumble, stalwart plants has only grown.
The other day, while perusing the rock garden section of a local nursery, I came upon a nice range of sedums aka stonecrop that I knew you might like to try in your garden. All of these plants would do well containers and many of the low-growing, trailing types will thrive on a hot, exposed balcony or in a window box set upon a hot metal railing. I enjoy sedums for their beautiful, dependable foliage and tend to make my selections based on colours and forms that I know will have an impact in my garden. Many varieties have leaves that change colour in late fall and winter in my northern climate. However, if flowers are your thing, they also produce sprays of pointy, star-like blooms in late summer to early fall. Colours range from white to yellow, pale pink to deep magenta and beyond.
Most of these plants prefer full sun, but will tolerate light shade and the dappled light underneath taller plants. I’ve chosen plants that are mostly hardy between zones 4-9, but there are a few indicated below that have an even wider range. All require well-draining soil and do well in rock gardens or pots with lots of sand and grit. I like to plant the trailing types on a slope or near to the side of rocks and pots where they can cascade over the edge like a waterfall.
When growing in containers, look for pots that have drainage holes and use soil that is made for growing cactus and succulents.
Sedum ‘Thundercloud’ Tall, upright sedum (12″) with blue/green foliage that reminds me of ornamental cabbage. Sports white blooms in late summer. I recently bought this one for my garden.
Sedum ‘Dazzleberry’ A semi-tall (6-8″) plant with blue-grey foliage and pink edging. Produces raspberry flowers in late summer.
Sedum ‘Cherry Tart’ A 6″ tall plant with a nice pinky-red blush and pink flowers in late summer.
Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ This trailing plant with chartreuse, needle-like foliage is one of my very favourites. The bright 3-6″ tall foliage turns orange in winter. Hardy to zone 3.
Sedum cauticola ‘Lidakense’ Another with blue/green foliage and pink edging; however, this one forms small rosettes that grow in low clumps. Expect deep pink/magenta flowers in late summer and fall. It is very hardy to zone 2.
Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ Another personal favourite, ‘Cape Blanco’ forms beautifully tight, tiny rosettes that spread low, cascading over rocks and pot edges (2-4″ tall). The foliage is exceptionally silvery and blue. The foliage is the star here — I tend to overlook the yellow flowers that appear in summer and often remove them as they distract from the foliage. This is the most difficult to grow in my climate and I have had some trouble overwintering it in the past, even in pots and alpine troughs. It comes back, but never with the same vigour. Zones 5-9. This sedum hails from the west coast — there is some secret found in this difference that I haven’t managed to unlock.